People spend a lot of time researching online, whether buying shoes, choosing a restaurant, or even subscribing to a streaming service. It’s the same when looking for a suitable school for their kids. Here, the first source of information is always the school’s website.
It’s no wonder that so many schools invest a lot of money and time to design a website that perfectly reflects their vibe, values, and achievements. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for a great school website design because every school has different goals, needs, and target audiences.
That’s why it’s vital to have the right tools and guidance to create a school website that shows your visitors that your school is the right choice for their children. Here’s our guide.
Define the Audience
Your school website visitors are not just limited to current parents/guardians. Prospective parents/guardians, future employees, school staff, and even students frequently visit your website to learn more about you without you even knowing it.
For your school to build a solid online reputation and present itself in the best possible light, you must have a website that caters to all user categories. In today’s tech-driven world, people are accustomed to a pleasant user experience and will find it uncomfortable to visit a website that’s not optimized for the best user experience.
Identify Their Needs
We suggest pausing from time to time to ask:
- “Does my school website design represent us in the best possible light and provide users with the information they want in a clear and user-friendly manner?”
- “When a parent or student visits your school website, can they find a variety of information, such as semester dates, admission forms, and summer activities?”
Your website must be as easy to use as possible if you want the typical user to engage with it more and find the information they want.
Consider Your Values
First impressions are crucial. Today’s typical web user is familiar with user experience. This simply means that people can recognize a well-organized, detailed web presence with crystal-clear ideas.
You must create a website that is easy to use and appealing to the eye. Consider this: Is it both externally and internally modern? Is the site architecture logical? Or does it scream “1994!”?
Your school’s website showcases the principles it upholds. It is a visitor’s initial interaction with your school. So, how do you want to present your school on the web?
Focus on Prospective and Current Students
Current and prospective students are the two primary audiences your website should target. Your school website should promote your institution to prospective students while providing vital information to current students.
For example, families of prospective students will likely want to learn about academic standards, health services, curriculum, and school culture before enrolling.
Families of current students may want quick access to a parent portal, school policies, academic resources, upcoming activities, library details, and other websites that are particularly helpful to enrolled students already.
Undoubtedly, there is an overlap between the interests of current and prospective students. The material must be balanced, appeal to both groups, and all resources are easily accessible and understandable.
Mobile-Friendliness is Key
We’ve come a long way from when school websites only served desktop and laptop users. People use smartphones more than ever, and they certainly use them to visit your school website. Considering that there’s no stopping point to the adoption of smartphones, you need to make sure that your school website is mobile-friendly.
If mobile users have to constantly zoom in/out to read an article or see the navigation, they will surely leave the website and may never come back. If you are unsure of how to develop a mobile-responsive school website, you should hire a website service provider to ensure all the elements are in place for an effortless mobile experience on your website.
The evolution of web design results from our growing understanding of online user behavior.
Simplicity is now the focus of interest.
Visitors to your school’s website want a simple layout, easy navigation, and enticing, large photos. They need to be able to identify where to find specific information quickly.
Avoid overwhelming visitors with too much content, cluttered links, animations, or other unnecessary features. A good rule of thumb is considering whether a feature or content adds value to the visitor experience. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t need it.
Super-Fast Load Time
Modern website users will not patiently wait for your web page to load. Most visitors will leave your website if it does not load in less than five seconds.
Surprisingly, most schools have load time issues, largely due to unnecessary graphics or heavy images that slow down the website. Here are some solutions:
#1 Find the Right Image Size
Make sure to pay attention to the image’s dimensions and size. It is unnecessary to upload an image that is 7000 pixels wide for a small thumbnail. It’ll easily slow down your website. While you should absolutely focus on putting high-quality photos onto your school website, you need to get them to a size that fits your site.
#2 72dpi is Enough
While 300 dpi improves the quality of photos in print, it has little effect on the online display of an image. In Photoshop, this change is easy to do. Upload the good JPEGs and PNGs. Using a PNG file for photos will slow down the website’s performance because they are better quality, which is needed in some circumstances, such as when you need a transparent background. But when it isn’t imperative, a good JPEG will do the job and keep your school website loading quickly.
#3 Don’t Add Too Many Images
Images and videos are great for making your website content more engaging, but using too many of them can slow down your website load time. Only use photos when you know they’ll enhance your web page content.
If image optimization and scaling aren’t enough, you may need to consider factors other than content. The most crucial element in website load time may be how and where your website is hosted. A reliable website service provider can guarantee the fastest load times because they have the infrastructure to maintain the website.
The design of a top-notch school website must have a simple layout that allows site users to navigate effortlessly to any section of the website. All your articles, photos, and videos are useless if visitors cannot find them on your website.
You want all sorts of users to be able to access the information they need, whether they are students checking their grades online or grandmothers verifying graduation information. To do this, ensure your school website is well-designed and offers easy navigation options.
#1 Use Quick Links
Help students stay current on upcoming test dates and give them details about campus services with their own category quick links section. And parents can easily find their most needed information, including the dates of significant events, thanks to their own quick links section.
Teachers can quickly and easily update certain areas by accessing various portals on the quick links section, important pages on the Department of Education site, and more.
#2 Provide Up-to-Date Information
Publishing school policies, such as the parent/student handbook and code of conduct, increases transparency and helps school officials create accountability among their target audience.
A current and attractive school website will help you stay in touch with people and attract new students. You can also use it to elicit feedback, such as improving operations. As you continually update the information on your school website, visitors will have a reason to keep visiting your site pages.
Remember, the top school websites aren’t just created for high schools; schools that serve students of all grades will benefit significantly from designing user-friendly school websites.
Put Yourself In Parents’/Guardians’ Shoes
An excellent high school website will appeal to your most important audience: your students’ parents and guardians. They will stop visiting the school site if the information they need is outdated. Adults typically look at topics like school lunches, the latest curriculum information, the calendar, news, staff contact lists, and galleries. So make sure you provide them with new and helpful information.
Create a Communication Channel
Your most effective communication tool is a well-designed, attractive website.
When visitors use your website and consistently find it is current and relevant every time they search for information, they will, more and more often, search the school site before asking, knowing they can trust the website as a reliable source of information.
Answering questions takes less time when you use your school calendar, comment sections, social media feeds, and news. You’ll also find you create fewer photocopies.
Must-Have Elements on Your School Website
Depending on your school’s goals and target audience, you must have most, if not all, of these elements in your school website design.
School Programs & Academic Curriculum
The programs and academic opportunities your school offers is possibly the most significant piece of information people are interested in learning about your school. That comes as no shock.
But, the secret to drawing in potential students and families, in particular, is ensuring the material is complete and easy to find.
The page must be accessible via the main menu and provide answers to questions like:
- What advanced courses do you offer?
- How are the drama and arts programs?
- What is your special education philosophy, and how are 504 implementations carried out?
- What’s the focus of teachers for every grade?
Most school websites provide information about the staff who work there. However, the amount of information supplied can vary widely. For example, it is helpful to list teachers’ and staff names, titles, and contact information.
However, to effectively appear online and create a meaningful brand, schools should take the opportunity to offer additional information that will ultimately benefit visitors.
- Your 3rd-grade teacher speaks both English and Spanish fluently.
- The principal received a regional award for contributions to education.
- The secretary, who has worked for the district for 30 years, was honored for her dedication to the needs of the kids and the families.
Include brief biographies for every member of your school personnel.
Everyone has a story to tell. You can also illustrate your school’s overall story by giving your website visitor a more detailed look at the people your students will interact with inside and outside the classroom.
Put a link or widget to it on your front page and keep it current with upcoming events. You can easily embed the events calendar into your school website. When it is visible on the front page, it serves two purposes. First, it makes monitoring school activities easy for all visitors. But it also helps prospective parents discover all the extracurricular activities and academic events your students can participate in. It will also keep parents and students more engaged and involved if they can easily see what upcoming events interest them.
One of the most influential marketing tools available is to include the use of student, staff, and alumni testimonials as part of your website content. Gather testimonials at every opportunity, including parents during parent-teacher conferences or online forms on your website. Invite students and alumni to add testimonials and personal quotes to be shared with prospective students. Nothing is more convincing than hearing from a trusted reference with first-hand experience at your school.
The main goal of a school website is to provide people with a platform to access important information about the school. It should include relevant details about the school and information about extracurricular activities, news, school events, and school handbooks, to name a few.
Add a blog to your school website so visitors can access it for the information that establishes you as an expert in the field. Relevant content can also improve the SEO performance of your school website. When search engines look for helpful information such as articles, photos, videos, infographics, etc., your website will rank better (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.).
Regularly posting educational and informative information keeps students, teachers, and other users interested.
A contact page is a necessity for any school website. Include the school’s address on this page, along with other contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses. You can also have a link to your social media pages, where people can find out details about your school, including activities, comments, reviews, and contact info.
The primary purpose of this page is to allow everyone to get in touch with you at any time. It is always surprising to us how many school websites fail to include their state in the address!
Images and videos are powerful. Using only text to present your school to others would be a mistake. And though stock images are beautiful and professional, they do not let others see who you are.
Well-placed images throughout your school website help create pride in your current students and families and allow others to picture themselves at your school. Incorporate photos and videos into your school’s website.
A video could include a tour of the facility, a welcome from the principal, or testimonials from students, parents, and guardians.
On the school website, you can post photos of facilities (including the gym, classrooms, café, labs, and art studios), staff, and student activities. This is how you build your brand and reputation.
Online Forms Make it Easier For Parents/Guardians & Schools
Despite the growing paperless trend, many schools still struggle to manage forms and documents for their student body. In some school districts, parents/guardians must submit an entire set of documents each year to enroll their children in a school. These documents may include medical records, consent forms, contact information, etc.
This process takes up valuable parent time and puts a strain on school staff. By being able to submit forms online, schools can instantly increase efficiency, and parents can submit all information with a single click.
A trusted, great school website allows people to access school and district forms online. This automated process makes it easier for individuals to complete forms on their own schedule, minimizing the possibility of missing paperwork.
Parents can check up on documents like athletic membership forms and medical histories and verify that they and their kids have read and accepted the student handbook’s rules.
Show Off Your Students
Use the website to highlight some of the outstanding students at your school. This is the perfect place to tell potential parents/guardians that their children will grow up in an environment full of talented individuals who can help them achieve their goals.
With this kind of content, your great school website will instantly become a major online platform that parents and students will love to visit.
Potential students will get comprehensive information about the courses offered and the skills acquired at the school. For current students, having the opportunity to showcase their best skills is exciting and inspiring.
A News Section
A successful website provides a window to your school through its news section. This is one of the best ways to engage visitors and show the real character of your school. Impressive events, which you might call “regular,” are what make your school stand out to prospective and current parents.
Also, viewers will visit your website frequently if they know there is always something new and interesting to read. Make sure you post up-to-date information on the website as often as possible, ideally at least once a week.
Celebrating your students’ accomplishments outside of the classroom demonstrates how much you care about their overall growth. Consider how you can save time and money by eliminating printed newsletters and creating a well-utilized news section.
Your school website can serve many purposes, but the most important is undoubtedly to attract prospective parents/guardians and create a constant communication channel with current guardians and students.
If you want them to visit your high school website regularly and learn about all the highlights of your school, you need to establish yourself as an up-to-date and reliable source of information. Plus, they should be able to find what they want within seconds—or they will look elsewhere.
Of course, it’s understandable that these tips might make you feel a little overwhelmed. That’s fine too, because if you’re like most schools and do not have the time, the staff, or the infrastructure to work on web design, we have the solution to that too.
Consider hiring a reliable website service provider like School Webmasters to take care of everything from A to Z, including the full-service website management. Our team has all the expertise and experience you need to make you a great school website that’s a real eye-catcher! Just contact us at 888-750-4556 or request a quote, and let us get started!